Here’s a Comeback Post About My Life and Making Mini Eclairs

Life Update: Why I Was Gone & What I Learned

Hi everyone, it’s been a while hasn’t it? Warning: skip to the next heading if you don’t want to read my life ramblings. Where have I been for 2-3 months? I’ve been struggling y’all…OK, so not really struggling. I’ve just been taking a break from social media to focus on adulting – which is really just me being a bundle of anxiety and frantically trying to find a career-starting job after graduation because I underestimated the struggle and didn’t focus on getting a good internship during school (phew that was a real on-brand run-on sentence).

Here’s some advice that you didn’t ask for: GO OUT AND SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES AS SOON AS YOU CAN. During my time in college, I was turned off by the internship opportunities at school because I wasn’t interested in the companies themselves: i.e. I thought they were boring. That was definitely a mistake because you should never underestimate the value of any relevant experience. It’s ok to take boring jobs that give you the experience first because you can always use it as leverage to eventually get to your real dream job! It may be common sense to most of y’all – if not all – but you’d be surprised how many excuses you can make for yourself when you’re demotivated.

During my last semester, I found a job…that turned out to be a dud. After I graduated, I was left trying to find a job with actual career prospects, not just for the sake of my withering wallet and future security, but for my own sanity. It honestly felt like my large family was watching my every move and it made me feel more suffocated, as they got to witness and hear about every bit of struggle I was going through – admittedly, a downside to Asian culture and its intense interconnectivity, but I digress.

So here I was, basically feeling like a failure who maybe shouldn’t have taken the risk of going into a highly saturated field like marketing. I couldn’t bring myself to work on new baking projects, this blog, or my socials, even though I now had more time than I ever did – which also led me to the conclusion that I bake and cook when I’m already feeling happy or secure. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t focus on my side projects at all and I had to take a break.

With the support of my parents, my boyfriend & his family (special thanks to Anne), and a couple of good friends, I was able to kick myself in the butt when I needed to and spent as much free time as I could applying to jobs and knocking down phone interviews, in-person interviews, work samples, second interviews – the whole lot.

After 3 months of grinding, I’m proud to say…that I found a job! I’ll be working as a social media & marketing admin for an upscale catering company – and their accompanying side businesses. It’s not a high paying job by any means, but it’s certainly not the lowest for an entry-level job! I actually think I got lucky; I’m able to write about what I’m already interested in, get my foot in the door, and really grow myself at this company.

It was a struggle for a few months, but I’m extremely lucky and thankful that it was only for that long. I think I’ve learned a lot and grown a bit; I’m excited to see where my life goes from here.

Now, I’m really back to cook and bake my butt off – see y’all on my future posts!

Making Mini Eclairs

Last week, one of my friends invited me and my bf to dinner at their apartment and I wanted to bring over some treats. Mind you, I had not baked in several months – besides the occasional craving-satiating batch of cookies. So, I chose to make something familiar, but sort-of impressive: eclairs. I’d actually never made an eclair before in my life, but eclairs are made from the same choux dough as cream puffs – and I’d made plenty of those in the past year (see my killer holiday croquembouche).

Aaaaaaand yet, despite the familiarity, they didn’t turn out how I wanted them to: too slim, a little flat, and a little too soft. I also didn’t leave enough time for myself to finish them all – me per usual – so I was running around the kitchen like a panicked chicken. They still tasted pretty good, even though the dark chocolate overpowered the pastry cream quite a bit – the glaze was too thick and not runny enough so the balance was off.

A couple of days later, I made a second batch because I had some leftover eclair shells and A LOT of leftover pastry cream and chocolate (I’ve adjusted the recipe amounts accordingly so there’s a lot less wastage). These turned out way better, and I wish these were the ones I provided at the dinner, but what can you do right?

Here’s what I improved on:

I used zoebakes’ recipe for eclairs, but I piped the eclairs 2 inches long instead of 3 inches. I did not have a 1/2″ inch pastry piping tip like hers; I used the biggest round icing piping tip in my Wilton kit which was still significantly smaller. I piped them shorter so it was easier to consistently pipe them thicker with what I had.

I held the piping bag at a 45-degree angle which helped me get the volume I needed when I was piping out the eclairs, instead of piping them less than 45 degrees (closer to the table) which resulted in flatter piping. I also piped the dough with even, generous pressure to get more width on my eclairs. You will get the hang of it, the more eclairs you pipe.

I changed the baking directions; instead of baking 2 pans at a time, I baked one sheet pan at a time – the dough will stay fine at room temp in the meantime. The instructions state to open the oven after 15 minutes and rotate both pans for even baking; I found this unnecessary and here’s why. In other recipes, it’s crucial to let the dough rise, uninterrupted in the first 20 minutes; I found that this recipe cut it a little to close and resulted in more inconsistent results like flat pastry.

I baked them at 375F for 30 minutes uninterrupted, then turned off the oven and held the door open with a wooden spoon to let the eclairs dry out for 5 minutes: this will result in consistent, risen, and firm eclair shells that have a nice, glossy, and flat bottom – versus sunken shells that have soft, uneven bottoms.

Left two eclairs are flat, sunken in, and underbaked. Right two eclairs are firm, crisp on the bottom, and baked correctly.

The 1:1 ratio of chocolate to heavy cream resulted in a glaze that was too thick for me, which resulted in too much chocolate that overpowered the other flavors of the eclair. I added light corn syrup to the mix, and it resulted in a thinner coating and a shinier glaze.

I also topped the eclairs with some gold sugar sprinkles and it added a nice crunchy textural element to the eclairs.

This isn’t my most involved recipe, but I’m quite proud of the results: it’s a nice warm-up to future cooking projects to follow!

Check out my video highlight for this recipe on my Instagram @pokethedough

Mini Eclairs w/ White Chocolate Rum Pastry Cream

Based off of zoebakes’ eclair recipe w/ adjustments

Makes 40-50 mini eclairs

Ingredients

For the pate a choux (eclair dough):

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup water

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, room temperature

For the white chocolate rum pastry cream:

1 cup whole milk

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar, divided in half

2 tbsp corn starch

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or a 1/2 a vanilla bean, split and scraped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons rum, optional

6 ounces white chocolate, chips or chopped finely

For the ganache:

4.5 ounces heavy whipping cream

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 tbsp light corn syrup

Instructions

Making the choux batter:

Preheat the oven to 375┬░F.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or non-stick silicone mat.

Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a rapid simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Take pan off the heat and dump the flour in all at once.

Lower the heat to medium and put the pan back on the heat.

Quickly stir with a wooden spoon for 2-3 minutes until the dough come together as a smooth ball, the smell is like mash potatoes, and the bottom of the pan has a skim of dough stuck to it.

Remove dough from the pot and place in bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment. Turn on mixer on medium-low speed and beat the dough for a minute to cool it off.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each, until it comes together in a smooth and shiny paste. Scrape down the bowl after each egg.

When you pull up the beater from the dough, the dough should form a v-shape. It will be thick enough to hold its shape, but thin enough to pipe easily.

Fit a piping bag with a round tip, hold the bag at 45 degrees, and pipe the dough into 2-inch logs with even and generous pressure. If there are points sticking up on the ends just wet your finger and smooth them out.

Place the one sheet into the oven and leave one out at room temperature.

Bake for 30 minutes, until they are puffy and golden-brown. You can check on them after 20 minutes; any earlier and they will deflate.

After those 30 minutes of baking, open an eclair up; it should not be wet inside. The bottom should be firm, flat, even, and shiny.

Prop the door open with a wooden spoon, shut the oven off, and let the eclairs dry further in the oven.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before filling. These shells can be made ahead and frozen in an air-tight container or freezer bag for up to a couple of weeks.

To make the pastry cream:

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and half of the sugar (2 tbsp) over medium heat until simmering.

In a bowl combine the yolks, remaining sugar, cornstarch and salt.

Once the milk has come to a simmer, ladle a small amount out and whisk it into the egg mixture to warm it up. This is called tempering and it prevents the eggs from cooking too quickly.

Once the egg mixture is warm to the touch, whisk it into the pot of milk.

Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil, whisk it vigorously for about 2-3 minutes so that you are sure to cook the cornstarch.

Take off the heat, and whisk in the vanilla, rum, and butter until it is smooth.

Place in a large bowl and immediately whisk in the chopped white chocolate.

Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled.

First part of assembly:

Once you are ready to assemble the ├ęclairs, carefully poke 3 holes into the bottom of each eclair shell with a chopstick.

Whisk up the chilled pastry cream to loosen and smooth it out.

Using a very small piping tip, pipe the pastry cream into the pastry shells. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Making the ganache:

Place chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the cream to a simmer.

Add the cream to the bowl of chocolate and allow to sit for 2 minutes.

Gently stir together the chocolate and cream. Add the corn syrup and stir until cohesive.

Final assembly:

Dip the chilled eclairs into the ganache, gently swirling them in circles above the bowl to drip excess chocolate drip into the bowl.

Decorate with sprinkles or other decorations.

Refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 8 hours).